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Sunday, 31 December, 2000, 16:41 GMT
Thousands mark Dome's final day
Mileeniounm Show
The Millennium Show will mark the Dome's closure
Thousands of people are taking the last chance to visit the Millennium Dome which closes for good on Sunday evening.

On Saturday about 37,000 people visited the Dome before it was all too late, while the final day attracted 27,000 - deliberately limited to prevent overcrowding.

A last performance of the Millennium Show within the Dome's central arena, followed by a closing ceremony, will mark the official close of the attraction at 1900 GMT.

Dome's last day
0900: Attraction opens
1700 - 1900: Millennium Show and closing ceremony
1900: Doors finally close to public
2100 - 0900: Ministry of Sound "rave"
London nightclub, the Ministry of Sound, will then stage a party in the surrounding buildings, although not in the Dome itself.

As organisers prepared for a big finale, Dome boss Pierre-Yves Gerbeau rejected newspaper reports that he had renewed his bid to keep the site open as a visitor attraction next year, with a bid of 150m.

Capacity crowd

"This is old news; I have been approached by the financial consortium to run a bid to buy the business - that was about two months ago and we made it known officially to the government," he told the BBC.

However, Mr Gerbeau said he accepted that Legacy was the government's preferred bidder and was relieved that it would mean the Dome was not insolvent when the business was wound up.

John Prescott with Pierre-Yves Gerbeau
John Prescott will be there for the official closure
Work on dismantling much of the Dome interior is due to start in January with new buyer Legacy expected to take over at the end of February.

Mr Gerbeau said Dome staff should be proud that they had turned a "failing product into a world class attraction".

Running the Dome as a successful business had been hamstrung by the strict one-year lifespan of the attraction and the early prediction it could draw 12m visitors in that year, he added.

"I wish I could rewind the clock, invent a time machine and kill those crazy two numbers."

"We have done 6.5m, it's the second best visitor attraction in Europe behind Disney.

"I'm still fighting very hard to get my people the recognition they deserve and the credit they deserve," he said.

While the doors close at 1900 GMT, the zones will shut down at 1800 GMT.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who visited the attraction on Saturday with his family, will be there again on Sunday to attend the closing ceremony.

Once the doors are firmly shut to the public, the Ministry of Sound will stage a 12-hour long party with top DJs in the Dome's grounds, including the Skyscape theatre building.

Lottery handouts

Acrobat Paul Rowley, who is part of the Millennium Show, said he was sad the Dome was closing.

"There will be one last show with both casts joining in, which will be a touching memory," he said.

"We feel we have given our all, 100% all the way through, it is just a shame it couldn't go on a lot longer."

He added that he would probably never take part in a show on the same scale again.

"The show is too big to take anywhere else, there is nowhere else in the world that could do this," he said.

Price of the Dome
Latest estimated total: 854m
February: 60m emergency grant from Millennium Commission
May: 29m from commission
43m from commission
September: 47m from commission
He said cast members would now be auditioning for shows around the world and some had formed their own companies with other performers they had met at the Dome.

As New Year's Day dawns over the familiar Greenwich landmark, it will mark the end of a turbulent 12 months for the operators and the Labour government.

The year-long attendance figure will be more than twice as many as that of top attractions such as Alton Towers or Madame Tussauds, but well short of the 12 million originally forecast by the NMEC.

The inaccuracy of the prediction resulted in the company repeatedly going cap in hand to the National Lottery for more money.

The contents of the Dome are to be auctioned in a sale that could yield up to 10m.

The BBC's Nick Higham at the Dome
"The dome has helped regenerate one of the poorest and most polluted corners of the South East"
The BBC's David Sillito at the Dome
"A bit of a party atmosphere"
Dome Chief Executive, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau
"We are going out with a big bang"

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See also:

19 Dec 00 | UK Politics
20 Nov 00 | Business
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